Twinkie Cowboys

The man was slowly brought, horseback, to the ominous dangling tree limb that was going to be his fate.  He had spent much of his adult life being a scallywag… a pain in the posterior of anyone he came in contact with, but he was, at heart, a good man.  He never thought that he would meet his maker at the end of a rope.

The posse led the horse into position, and looped the white rope around the sturdy branch.  The end was tightened around the trunk of the tree while the other, the noose, went around his thin neck.

“This is your last chance, Tomas James, to confess your sins before you face the final judgment.  What do you have to say for yourself, pardner?”

The words of the man were lost on Tomas.  What could he say? He was a troublemaker.  He was a rapscallion. But he just did not deserve to die like this.  This was reserved for the worst of the worst, and he just did not fit that bill.  So he stayed quiet.

“Very well,” said the leader of the posse, with a doff of his cowboy hat, “so be it.  May God have mercy on your soul.”

With a whack on the rear of the horse Tomas sat upon, the animal took off running.  Tomas closed his eyes. He did not know if he would suffocate or if his neck would break immediately when the slack left the rope, but neither result were what he hoped.  In his head, he said a silent goodbye to the world knowing that he would be joining his beloved sister in the afterlife. That was the one thing that he was thankful for. As he felt the horse leave beneath his body, he knew that gravity was about to take over and it would soon be over.

A shot rang out through the air and Tomas found himself hitting the ground.  The bullet had severed the hangman’s rope, and he landed hard in a puff of Western dust.  However, he was still very much alive.

As Tomas quickly tried to remove the noose, the rest of the posse turned to see what varmint had interrupted the cowboy justice.  There on the hill beyond the scene, with the slight morning sun shining over his shoulder, sat a stranger upon a white horse. The smoking gun was still in his right hand, but in his left, a golden tubular shaped cake.  He took a bite of the Twinkie as he slowly trotted the stallion over to the mob. Some of the creamy filling was left upon his chin, intermixing with his beard.

“There will be no hanging here today,” the stranger said, taking a second bite of the golden cake.  

“Mister, you just made a big mistake,” said the leader of the posse.  

“No… the big mistake has yet to be made,” he said, a smirk plastered on his face.  “Here is what is going to happen… you are going to dispatch your little mob, and return to your families, happy with the fact that you are able to do so under your own power.”

The leader looked to be ready to respond to the comment of the stranger, but before he could, the stranger continued.

“If you decide that you cannot live with that option,” he said, popping the final bite of Twinkie into his mouth, “then the real ‘big mistake’ is ready to happen.”

With that final bite swallowed, the stranger pulled out a second gun and proceeded to fire multiple shots through the air, piercing the belt buckles or suspenders of each of the men standing around Tomas.  The trousers of each man fell to the ground in unison, leaving them unharmed in all other way. The unbelievable display of marksmanship was really all the stranger needed to do. The mob froze in their spots, frightened at what this stranger could do.

“Now, this doesn’t have to be a bad moment for us all,” the stranger said, reaching into his backpack.  He tossed several packages at the feet of the men. “Here… Twinkies for everyone. See… it could have been much worse.”  Turning his attention to Tomas, the stranger said, “Get up.”

Tomas had watched this display with a confused terror.   “Do I know you?”

“You will,” said the stranger, extending a hand.  Tomas took the offered appendage and he found himself pulled up onto the horse behind the stranger.  The stranger looked to the intimidated mob and said, “Remember, even if the exterior is not what you want, there may be a sweet center.”

With those wise words, the stranger reared back on his horse, waving a Twinkie in his right hand.  The sound of the horse’s whinny cut through the Old West skyline. The sound faded as the horse galloped into the horizon.

“Who was that?” asked the leader of the mob.

“Doesn’t matter,” said one of the other men, who were down on his knees, scarfing down one of the cream-filled treasures.  “These things are good.”

The horse galloped at a remarkable speed, faster than Tomas had ever travelled in his life.  The wind smacked against his face and the smell of sugar across this stranger was strong. Tomas wrapped his arms around the man’s torso, wondering if he had exchanged one intolerable situation for another.  After what seemed like the longest ten minutes of his life, the horse slowed to a trot and the ride came to a halt. The stranger dropped Tomas to the ground, indelicately. For the second time in the last hour, Tomas landed hard on his own patootie.  Rubbing his backside as he stood to his feet, Tomas looked up at the stranger.

The stranger was decked out in a bright yellow shirt and white pants.  His white cowboy hat sat atop a long mane of blonde hair. His beard had been patiently manicured as each hair looked perfect, despite the touches of sugar that clumped throughout.   One would wonder why someone who was as meticulous with his beard as this stranger clearly was would allow sticky sugar to mar the appearance.  

“Um…thank you,” said Tomas, uncertain why this man had helped him.  “Who…are …you?”

“Who I am is not important,” he said, “Here…you must keep up your strength for the trip ahead of us.”  He tossed Tomas a Twinkie, the wrapper crinkled as the confused scallywag caught it.  

“No thanks,” said Tomas, “I have never liked these things.”

The stranger turned an eye to Tomas with such a scowl that Tomas was not sure if the stranger was going to let him live after that comment.  After a few tense seconds, the stranger smiled.

“You do not know what you are missing, my friend,” he said, with a hearty laugh.  Tomas tossed the packaged snack cake back to the stranger, who hungrily tore open the packaging with his teeth.  “God knew what he was doing on the day he created this tempting morsel.”

“Don’t you worry about the preservatives in that thing?” Tomas asked.

“Do I look worried?” he asked, opening his shirt and displaying his washboard abs.  “These are the secret to life.”

“If I could change the subject,” said Tomas, realizing that this was a topic that he simply wasn’t going to win, “why did you save me?”

“Hm?”

“I mean… don’t misunderstand me.  I appreciate the save. I really do.  But I do not know you from Adam. Why did you put yourself on the line for me?”

“I would hardly say that I ‘put myself on the line.’  That carnival of clowns was never a threat to me,” he said, making the ridiculously arrogant comment sound quite mild. 

“Okay, that may be true, but even still… you could be looked at as a criminal.  A rogue who is opposed to justice.”

“Did you deserve to be hanged?”

“No… but,”

“No buts about it, Tomas.  I know an injustice when I see it,” said the stranger.

“Wait… how did you know my name?” Tomas asked.  

“My appearance at your lynching was not an accident, Tomas James.  I was hired to find you and my investigation led me to your unfortunate circumstance.  It is very lucky that I found you when I did or else my employer would be very disappointed.”

“Your employer?  Who hired you?” Tomas asked, feeling that maybe he went from one fire to another.  Who wanted him badly enough to send this Twinkie warrior from out of the mysterious West to save him from frontier justice?  

“It was me, Tomas,” a feminine voice said, a voice that Tomas had known.  A voice that he had known all of his life. A voice that he did not believe he would ever hear again.  

It was his sister.

The sister that he believed was dead.

“Marjorie?” Tomas said.

There she stood.  His older sister, the one who practically raised him when their parents had been killed in a stagecoach wreck, Marjorie.  She had died when she was twenty-one years old, leaving poor sixteen year old Tomas to fend for himself. He was at her funeral.  How was this possible?

“It cannot be.  I was at your side when you died.  How is this possible? How are you not dead?”

The beautiful woman strode across the ground to stand in front of her brother, softly caressing his age worn face.  The gruffly whiskers were sharp to her touch. A tender tear rolled down her cheek. The touch told Tomas the real truth.

“I am dead,” she said.  

Before he knew it, Tomas was crying, embracing the phantom as tightly as he had ever embraced anyone.  He had never thought that he would see her again. Now she was here…and he didn’t know for how long.  

Marjorie pointed at the stranger.  “I contacted him for help when it was clear that your choices were going to lead to you ending your life early.  Your troublemaking…. It is leading you to an early grave. Believe me when I say that you do not want that.”

“What can I do?”

“Ride with him,” she said, still pointing at the stranger.  “Help him. Help others. Become more than what you are. Do not waste this opportunity.  The next time, you may not be so lucky.”

And with those words, she was gone.

Tomas fell to his knees, sobbing…his tears watering the dusty ground.   A packaged Twinkie landed at his knees. Tomas looked back to the stranger, still mounted on his white horse.

“If you’re going to ride with me, you’ll need to acquire a taste for these,” he said smiling.  

Tomas opened the package.

The Stranger and his Twinkies

 

By Kevin Fuss

 

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